ALCS Preview: Kansas City Royals vs Baltimore Orioles


ALCS Preview: Kansas City Royals vs Baltimore Orioles

By Jared Peterman

The Baltimore Orioles host the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after each team swept their opponents in the divisional series round.  Baltimore’s offense showed up in their sweep of the Detroit Tigers as they scored 21 runs, as well as their pitching staff, allowing 11 runs over the three games.  Kansas City’s late season heroics continued during the ALDS vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as they won their first two games in extra innings before capping off the series with their first nine inning regulation win.  Baltimore reaches the ALCS for the first time since 1997, while KC enters the series for the first time since 1985.  The two playoff drought franchises will find themselves in unfamiliar territory together, but each team has veterans with postseason success.  Nelson Cruz has flexed his muscles in October, swatting 16HR over his postseason career, tied for ninth all-time on the postseason home run leaders.  Cruz surpassed Babe Ruth on the all-time list with his two home runs against Detroit in the ALDS.  James Shields, who will pitch Game 1 of the ALCS, pitched Kansas City to victory in Game 3 of the ALDS by going six innings, allowing two earned runs, and striking out six.  This was a much better showing for the Kansas City ace as he also pitched in the Wild Card game where he didn’t have much success through five innings.  Look for these two players to have a major impact on their team’s success.  Despite not having postseason experience, each team hasn’t faltered for a second as they dominated their respective series.  Orioles starting pitching went toe-to-toe with Detroit’s rotation of aces, including a stellar start by SP Bud Norris in the final game of the series.  It’s unknown how manager, Buck Showalter, will handle Baltimore’s rotation through the ALCS, but I have major issues with starting Miguel Gonzalez in a potential Game 3 or Game 4.  The bats of Kansas City have awaken for the month of October, especially 1B Eric Hosmer, but the top of the order consisting of Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki will need to make their presence felt in the series to keep the bats hot.  Escobar and Aoki leadoff and hit second for the Royals and failed to produce against the Angels, but must find ways on base for success in the ALCS.  Meanwhile, the Royals have shown excellence in the fundamentals of the game by some great defense and base running led by OF Lorenzo Cain making spectacular grabs and OF Jarrod Dyson swiping bags.  Managing the bullpen has seem to become an Achilles heel throughout this postseason for managers and both managers have lockdown, back of the end bullpens at their display to play with.  Orioles’ slugger, Chris Davis will still sit out the ALCS due to his suspension for amphetamines, but the offense hasn’t lacked in any way in the absence of Davis.  Baltimore has adjusted seamlessly all season to any adversity as they ran away with the AL East without C Matt Wieters and 3B Manny Machado for most of the season.  Kansas City’s pitching is favored to Baltimore’s, but as they Orioles have shown, their bats are hard to tame.  Expect a live series that goes to six games in the favor of Baltimore.


American League Divisional Series Preview


American League Divisional Series (ALDS) Preview

By Jared Peterman

Detroit Tigers vs Baltimore Orioles

The Tigers won their fourth straight AL Central crown to find themselves in the ALDS vs the Baltimore Orioles who ran away with the AL East division, winning their first division title since 1997.  Both teams feature a high powered offense and their offseason additions to bolster the bats have paid off.  Orioles’ OF, Nelson Cruz, signed in the offseason, led baseball with 40HRs, which powered Baltimore to lead the MLB in HRs as a team with 211.  OF Nick Markakis makes his postseason debut in year nine of his career, batting leadoff for the Orioles will have to be a main contributor to their success as well as superstar, Adam Jones.  Detroit gambled in the offseason by trading slugging 1B Prince Fielder for 2B Ian Kinsler, and the dividends have paid off as Kinsler has provided stability at the top of the lineup, hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.  Martinez has been the MVP of the offense in 2014 as he hit .335AVG with 32HR and 103RBI while only striking out 42 times.

Baltimore’s Achilles heel entering the postseason seems to be the starting pitching as they have no “ace,” but the staff posted top of the line numbers since the All-star break, providing encouragement entering the series.  Chris Tillman will take the ball in Game 1, with the order of the rest of the rotation unknown, but you can expect to see Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez.  Meanwhile, Detroit faces no issue in the starting pitching rotation as they will line Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, trade deadline addition David Price, and Rick Porcello throughout the postseason.  The aces are aligned for Detroit, but the bullpen has been a major issue all season as they were worst in the MLB with a .270BAA and 27th in ERA at 4.29.  Baltimore made a key addition at the trade deadline to bolster the already impressive bullpen when acquiring left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller from the Boston Red Sox.  Expect Miller, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton to shut opponents down in the later innings.  With Baltimore’s starting pitching being unpredictable, I expect Detroit to advance to the ALCS in the maximum five games.

Prediction: Detroit in 5 Games

Kansas City Royals vs Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won their first AL West division title since 2009 and ran away with the best record in baseball at a 98-64 mark.  The Angels, top seed in the AL, had the luxury of watching their opponent in the wild card game on Monday night, as they saw the Kansas City Royals come back and win an extra inning affair to vault into the ALDS showdown.  Los Angeles features the highest scoring offense in baseball this season, simply powered by MVP candidate, Mike Trout along with legendary 1B Albert Pujols.  The offense didn’t only lead baseball in scoring but it also ranked top ten in H, HRs, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS, a pretty impressive resume for the best team in the 2014 season.  Kansas City will have an uphill battle to take down the Angels as their offense finished last in HRs in the MLB, though the offense showed it can score runs in the wild card game as they defeated Oakland, 9-8 in extra innings.  1B Eric Hosmer had an encouraging postseason debut, as he will be relied on to produce runs for the Royals as well as OF Alex Gordon.  Base running played a major role in the wild card game for Kansas City and they will probably look to continue that trend against the Angels for an advantage.

The Angels bats made the noise this season while the pitching staff flew under the radar and posted a 3.62ERA as starters with the fourth best BAA (.239) in baseball.  Los Angeles may have lost their ace, Garrett Richards, but found clarity to fill the rotation with Matt Shoemaker who will take the ball in Game 2.  Veterans Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson will round out the rotation for the Angels in the ALDS as Weaver had a stellar season and Wilson is known for great postseason performances during his tenure in Texas.  The Royals also had a solid pitching rotation this season as they posted a 3.60ERA as a staff behind ace James Shields and rookie sensation, Yordano Ventura.  Ventura and Shields will pitch in Game 2 and 3, while former Angel, Jason Vargas, will start Game 1 for Kansas City, with Jeremy Guthrie in line for Game 4.   The Angels in-season moves to rebuild the bullpen paid off in the second half of the season as they acquired Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher, and closer Huston Street.  Kansas City’s bullpen has been headlined by Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, all relievers sporting ERAs under 1.50.  The Angel’s complete team dynamic provides too much support to pick against them facing an unexperienced Royals team with power problems.

Prediction: Angels in 4 Games

National League Wild Card Preview


National League Wild Card Preview

By Jared Peterman

PNC Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, hosts the second straight NL one game wild card game.  This year the Pirates will face off with the San Francisco Giants, with the winner taking on the Washington Nationals in the NLDS.  The Giants send ace starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner to the bump, while Pirates fans will watch Edison Volquez try to hurl Pittsburgh to their second straight postseason series.

Volquez, acquired via free agency in the offseason, has been the Pirates’ newest reclamation project as he sported a 5.71ERA in 2013, almost cutting that number in half during this season as he enters the game with a 3.04ERA.  To add to Volquez’s success, he’s currently riding a hot streak throughout the month of September with a 2-0 record and a 1.08ERA through 33.1IP. Squaring off against Volquez, is no slouch either, as Bumgarner has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball over the past three seasons.  Bumgarner has never had an ERA over 3.40 while throwing 200+ IP in each season.  The southpaw will look to continue his success to push the Giants into the NLDS.

Pittsburgh’s offense is led by superstar sensation, Andrew McCutchen, but will need production from SS Jordy Mercer, who hits in front of McCutchen tonight.  Mercer has crushed lefties all season and the Pirates will need him to do so tonight to create run production opportunities for McCutchen and the heart of the order.  San Francisco’s offense is led by postseason heroes from the past as Buster Posey and Hunter Pence look to continue the success they have seen in previous high pressured playoff games.  2B Joe Panik makes his postseason debut, hitting second, ahead of Posey, where similar to Mercer, he must find a way to get on base.

The Pirates have the experience in the wild card format, where the Giants have the postseason experience.  The Pittsburgh atmosphere should play a factor, but I can’t pick against Bumgarner.  I’m expecting a very intriguing game as I pick the Giants defeat the Pirates, 5-2.